23 December 2008

The enhanced classes

Listened to Toby Miller, author of Makeover Nation: The United States of Reinvention on Media Matters (stream available). He discusses, among other subjects, the role of direct-to-consumer marketing of drugs and their use to alter personalities as one of the methods that America has, dubiously, excelled at using to reinventing itself. Similar discussions are echoed in Fukuyama's book Our Posthuman Future (see also my reference in in July 2005). Miller worries that people are presented with too much power with the direct marketing. He argues that just as the unskilled should not have the power to build bridges or airplanes, they should not be presented with the power to choose their medications. Not the perfect comparison but it gets to the point. Similarly, Fukuyama warns that as we have more freedom to alter our personality (he complements this with a discussion on our power to alter our physical self), we take away apparent deficits that are actually benefits. One of the driving forces behind human accomplishments is those "negative" feelings of fear, unhappiness, inadequacy. Take those away and we have less drive to conquer the objects of our distress.

Maybe we're still in a nascent age of mood-altering drugs. In the same way that there is an older generation who cannot adapt to using cell phones, text messages, and mobile internet--a technical alteration that gives us a connective and communicative power--there will be a generation that can't adopt the use of mood alterations that may give us concentrative and expressive power. Such drugs certainly don't exist today, but their potential to exist in the next 20 to 30 years is feasible. Once this is accessible and non-addictive, won't adoption of its use be as common as adoption of current technology? Once common to some, the gulf in ability between those enhanced and not could be similar to that of those born with rare physical prowess and those not. We could see an enhanced class of people who would be working on a much higher plane of consciousness with the rest of the population--most likely poor--fumbling around unfocused.

[ posted by sstrader on 23 December 2008 at 10:05:03 AM in Culture & Society | tagged fukuyama, posthuman ]